SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The California mudslide that killed at least 18 people is causing distress miles from where the torrent of muck and boulders stopped, as a local economy that thrives on tourism and the lure of sun-soaked beaches was left reeling.
On a postcard-perfect afternoon, the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company would normally be bustling with lunchtime diners downing fried calamari and lobster tacos, especially on the cusp of a holiday weekend.
“We would be smashing right now,” said manager Sean Johnson, referring to a typical Friday crowd at the restaurant on the edge of Santa Barbara Harbor.
But with the 101 Freeway clogged by mud and debris, cutting off traffic from Southern California, “There is hardly anybody in here,” Johnson lamented.
“The big hit,” he said, “is people can’t get up here from L.A.”
As searchers continued to look for bodies in the thick mud and evacuations remained in effect, the economic damage ranged up and down the coast, far from where the mudslide ravaged the celebrity getaway of Montecito.
In affluent Summerland, just east of where the mud flow cut a swath through homes and businesses alike, a liquor store with its door open was a lonely outpost. Restaurants and hotels were dark in Montecito, where 65 homes were destroyed, hundreds more damaged and power and water shut off.
The historic San Ysidro Ranch, where President John F. Kennedy and his wife honeymooned, was heavily damaged.
Santa Barbara is a tourist magnet, attracting visitors to its famous beaches and trendy restaurants. But on Friday there were plenty of seats at eateries, pedestrian traffic was unusually light and parking spaces were often empty.
Mark Schniepp, director of the California Economic Forecast, said the area is being shaken by a three-pronged problem: Tourists aren’t coming in their usual numbers, residents have been forced to move out and thousands of workers can’t get to their jobs.
He said some 12,000 daily commuters drive into Santa Barbara from the south, a route now blocked. Those people aren’t buying lunch or coffee, or filling up the gas tank on the way to work.
Residents are uprooted, the…